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Highlands Sports Complex closing in on opening day

Pictured are three of the six full-size basketball courts at the Highlands Sports Complex. They also serve as volleyball courts and can be used for pickleball.

TRIADELPHIA – The Highlands Sports Complex had its coming out party Friday afternoon.

An open house was staged for the 200,000-square foot state-of-the-art sports and recreation facility, located ideally just off Interstate 70.

The event attracted a nice-sized turnout, featuring a mix of Ohio County officials, business leaders as well as many of the area media. They were treated to a one-hour tour.

The impressive facility features six basketball/volleyball courts, picklelball courts, an indoor 88,000-square foot vaulted-ceiling turf, an 89,640-square foot outdoor field, four batting cages, two pitching tunnels, two soccer fields, climbing walls, team rooms, arcade and cafe.

The complex has the ability to host countless premier tournaments and events.

The price tag for the expansive complex is $35 million. It was funded by Development Bonds and Ohio County Development Authority funding.

“We started discussing this project about 10 years ago,” Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart said. “We started designing it four years ago and broke ground in August of 2018.

“Everything is complete except for the arcade and splash pad. We have starting booking smaller events,” he added. “Our staff has done a tremendous job. If the pandemic slows down some we can really start moving forward. The schedule is pretty full right now.”

The sports complex is under the direction of Sports Facilities Management (SFM).

Harvey Greenidge is cast in the role of SFM’s general manager while Jason Troop is the director of business development. Ricky Moore, former head track and cross country coach at Wheeling University, is the sports director while Anthony Ruiz is director of operations. Rounding out the leadership team are marketing coordinator Lucy DeFruscio and finance manager Terry Hammond.

Some 50 part-time workers are currently employed at the complex, a workforce that will grow by leaps and bounds in the near future.

“We’re very excited to open the sports complex to the public. The state-of-the-art facility offers a total sports and entertainment experience for families,” Ohio County Commission President Tim McCormick offered. “This will be our legacy for the kids of the Ohio Valley.”

The words were echoed by Stewart.

“We are very excited for the kids of the Ohio Valley. It is a facility that will generate a lot of activities throughout the winter and summer,” the longtime administrator said. “We want to keep it very inexpensive for the local folks. We have activities going on every day.

“We have a big volleyball tournament scheduled in January. There will be 180 teams here. So they will be filling a lot of hotel rooms. Those are the big things we are hoping to attract to bring in tourism, boost the hotel tax and help out restaurants,” he continued. “SFM does a nice job of attracting events. We can do full-size football and full-size soccer. Hopefully, we get out of this pandemic so we have camps as big as they can be. We had to limit their size this summer.”

Stewart added that Phase 2 off the project will include a Zip Line and a ropes course while Phase 3 will add synthetic baseball and softball fields.

DeFruscio pointed out the complex offers something for everyone.

“The Highlands Sports Complex is a total sports and entertainment destination for the community and surrounding region. We welcome families to experience all that we have to offer from local youth and adult sports programming to our family entertainment center featuring a play climb and an arcade,” the former Wheeling Park hoop standout said. “We’re designed to host events – big and small – to provide a great experience for Wheeling residents and out-of-town guests. There’s something for everyone at Highlands Sports and we can’t wait to show you.”

A grand opening ceremony is planned for Saturday, Aug. 1. Outdoor activities will begin at noon followed by a 12:30 p.m. ceremony featuring OCDA and SFM staff. Indoor activities will follow at 1 p.m., including an HSC Passport that encourages guests to visit a variety of locations in the complex with a chance to win prizes provided by the facility and local businesses. The day will wrap up at 4 p.m.

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